At Dharma Yoga’s recently erected, 2,400-square-foot studio, flickering candlelight gives the earth-tone hues and gleaming hardwood floors an inviting glow. Like stumbling into a lounge-singer convention, the studio’s comforting vibes relax the mind with calming music as the band of certified instructors gently guides students of all experience levels through a series of healing physical postures. Though classes vary in style—ranging from vigorous early-bird Vinyasa flow to relaxing end-of-day Dharma nightcaps—each session explores traditional Indian yoga and Buddhist practices, referring to itself as an "awareness-based mindfulness and relaxation practice." Between the original Dharma Yoga and the new Dharma Yoga East Side, students can choose from 50 weekly classes, held throughout the day.
In the course of more than a decade of teaching and practicing yoga, Dharma Yoga founder Keith Kachtick, an Austin native, has served as the senior instructor with the Lineage Project, a nonprofit that offers meditation and yoga practice to prisoners in the New York City area. Keith has also contributed his yogic philosophies to publications such as Yoga Journal, Newsweek, and the New York Times. His codirector, Camilla, has a master’s degree in social work and a background as a clinical therapist. These experiences fuel her nurturing teaching style, especially in yoga-therapy sessions, which are designed to help to release physical, emotional, and mental tension.
Growing up in El Paso near Hueco Tanks led Austin Rock Gym owner Troy Wilson to view rock climbing as a way of life. In order to open his own facility he merged his experience running youth climbing programs and gyms with that of his wife and coowner Erica—a Houston native who has spent years scaling New Mexico's rocky ridges. Specializing in bouldering, belaying, and lead climbing, the duo brings mountain terrain indoors at two Austin area locations. The north Austin gym's 30-foot bouldering wall and colorful climbing routes challenge visitors to traverse steep angles, and its top-rope routes let belayed crag clingers scale to the perfect yodeling height. At the south Austin gym, sculpted, 30-foot textured walls loom over a 10,000-square-foot facility, in which climbers can belay, practice lead climbing, or conquer a bouldering cave.
Veteran climbers at each location teach classes and private lessons for rookie rockers 4 and older. In addition to bouldering, lead climbing, and belaying classes, instructors lead women's only sessions and Powerhouse courses that focus on strengthening the body's core. Troy and Tracy's team of experts also guides groups to outdoor climbing venues and lugs a portable rock wall to construction workers no longer challenged by ladders.
The majority of Total Wellness Austin's treatments are customized to meet the needs of each individual, and they all help to strengthen the relationship between mind and body. Owner Lori Massad-Koska sets the tone by developing individualized yoga programs for her clients that assist in lowering stress and improving flexibility, and a series of online instruction videos allows her students to practice in the comfort of their home or their car on the commute to work. Massad-Koska's classes also incorporate furry best friends in Doga sessions, which allow pooches and their pet humans to stretch together.
In addition to sun salutations, Total Wellness Austin aids its clients in the quest for better health with acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care and prompt extended sweating with boot camps led by certified personal trainers. Their focus on wellness extends from clients to the community in which they live: mental-health workshops raise donations for the family room at the Travis County courthouse, which helps comfort children in trouble, and a band of skilled instructors teach free yoga sessions for vets, their spouses, and bands of migrating penguins.
Inner Diva gets ladies safely twirling with a staff of certified personal trainers and professional dancers during dance-fitness classes that tone bodies and transform cores into upper-body powerhouses. Ranging from beginner to advanced, pole-dancing classes build balance, control, and core strength as ladies move through choreographed spins and hoist themselves aloft with gripping moves. Other classes sacrifice the pole but none of the sultry steps by encouraging ladies to dress up in their favorite pair of heels or ankle-length Victorian bathing suits for choreographed burlesque or hip-hop sessions. The practice space also rents out the studio for 90-minute private parties. Along the hardwood floor and its outcropping of 10 poles, revelers celebrate everything from birthdays to girls' night out. Instructors lead a class of your choice, and every attendee, just like every successfully appointed Supreme Court justice, gets a free feathered boa.
Del Sol Martials Arts & Fitness began not in a sweaty gym where young athletes learned to love exercise, though that is a chapter in its story. Its true origin lies in a kindergarten classroom where Thomas Leverett and Claudia Castro first met. The pair attended every year of school together, eventually celebrating when Thomas earned the title of Sifu and began his own Mantis-style kung fu school, and again when Claudia became a certified yogi. She joined him to start teaching, and together their family reached out to others to train them in fitness, discipline, healthy lifestyles, and 20-year courtships.
Today, students flock to their gym to study Northern Shaolin Seven Star Praying Mantis–style kung fu, a lineage for which Sifu Leverett is an official guardian. Claudia guides students through the equally ancient traditions of Ashtanga- and Vinyasa-style yoga. The duo even offers private cooking classes to teach how to create delicious, healthy meals or light stovetop burners simply by lifting up another stove and placing its already lit burners on them.
There aren’t many fighters who can say that they have their own day. Then again, there aren’t many fighters like Richard Lord. Known as the godfather of Austin boxing, he ran the boxing circuit as a professional boxer and fought a number of rounds in the old Austin Coliseum. A powerhouse presence for more than 30 years, Richard Lord has trained world-champion combatants, including Jesús "El Matador" Chávez and Anissa "The Assassin" Zamarron, and organized the first all-female boxing match sanctioned by U.S. Amateur Boxing, Inc. Looking at all of his achievements, it’s no surprise that the Austin boxing community marks its calendar for March 31, Richard Lord Day.
Inside his gym, he trains reigning prizefighters right next to first-timers in his old-school yet welcoming boxing gym. A team of amicable boxing trainers helps aspiring pugilists to pare off pounds quickly, float like butterflies, and sting like adult-contemporary singers during sweat-soaked sessions that cover form, rhythm, and timing.